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Digital Design Laboratory

Circuit Delays and Timing Simulation

Purpose

1. To Understand delays in digital circuits

2. To Learn to use the Timing Simulator
3. To Design a 16-bit carry-lookahead adder and measure its delay.

Background: Circuit Delays

Up to now we have been interested in the functional operation of logic circuits. In the
previous labs you used the logic simulator to verify that the circuits function properly.
However, there is one other important aspect to circuit design: the speed at which it
operates. The speed of a digital circuit is very important, as it will determine the
maximum frequency at which it can work. Let us consider a PC that has a clock
frequency of 800 MHz. That means that each 1.25 ns (i.e. period T=1/frequency) the
PC will perform a computation! As we will see, this will require clever circuit design.

You may ask yourself what determines the speed or the maximum frequency of a
digital system? The answer is the delays of the circuits. There are several factors that
contribute to the delay. One is the propagation delay due to the internal structure of
the gates, another factor is the loading of the output buffers (due to fanout and net
delays), and a third factor is the logic circuit itself.

1. Propagation delay

When the input signal of a gate changes, the output signal will not change
instantaneously as is shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Propagation delay of gates
The propagation delay (or gate delay) of a gate is the time difference between
the change of the input and output signals. There are two types of gate delays,
TPHL and TPLH, as indicated in Figure1. The value of the propagation delay
varies from gate to gate and from logic family to family. In general the more
you are willing to pay for a device (or chip), the faster it will be. The FPGAs
we are using in the lab have gate delays which vary between 1.5 and 4.5ns. The
actual delay depends on the way the logic gates have been mapped into the
LUTs (Look up table) of a CLB (Configurable Logic Block). The I/O buffers
have delays in the range of 2-4ns.

The propagation delay described above is caused by parasitic capacitors inside

the gates and the physical limitations of the devices used to build these gates.
Another cause of delay is the capacitor associated with the loads seen by a gate.
These capacitors are the result of the wiring (net delays) between gates (e.g. a
long metal line connecting two gates on a chip) and the input capacitor of the
gates as is shown in Figure 2a.
Figure 2: (a)Parasitic interconnection capacitors and fanout of a gate; (b)
hydraulic equivalent.

These capacitors need to be charged or discharged through the gate that drives
them (e.g. gate 1 in Figure 2a). The more capacitors that need to be charged or
discharged the longer it will take for the output to change. Also, the longer the
interconnection, the more resistance the nets will have. The easiest way to
visualize this is to use a hydraulic equivalent of a capacitor and a resistor: a
bucket filled with water and a narrow pipe, respectively, as shown in Figure 2b.
The more buckets connected to the drain (i.e. the input inverter), the longer it
will take to empty them. This delay is the result of the fanout of the inverter.

3. Delay as a result of circuit topography.

Circuits that perform the same function can vary significantly in their speeds. A
good example is an adder circuit. The one you designed in the previous lab is
called a ripple-adder and is considerably slower that a carry-look-ahead
adder or CLA [1,3,4].
Measuring Circuit Delays

The overall speed of a digital system can be measured on an oscilloscope by

comparing the input to the output signals. However, during the design phase, the
circuit has not yet been fabricated and therefore, cannot be measured. In that case it is
possible to determine the delay of circuits by doing a Timing Simulation. The
advantage of a simulation is that one can also determine the delay of internal nodes of
a circuit. This can be very helpful to understand which nodes or paths are the slowest
and thus limit the overall speed of the circuits. These paths are called "Critical path".
It is important to understand which paths are critical in a circuit so that one can reduce
their delay.

The actual delay will depend on how the gates have been implemented in the various
LUTs and CLBs. Also, the routing of the signals between the different CLBs
determines the overall speed. Thus, one needs first to implement the design so that
one can provide the Timing Simulator with the block and routing delay information.
The Timing Simulator and the Implementation Tools are described in the tutorials.

One type of circuit where the effect of gate delays is particularly clear, is an ADDER.
In this lab you will be measuring the delay of different types of adder circuits. The 4-
bit adder you designed and implemented in the previous lab is called a ripple-carry
adder because the result of an addition of two bits depends on the carry generated by
the addition of the previous two bits. Thus, the Sum of the most significant bit is only
available after the carry signal has rippled through the adder from the least significant
stage to the most significant stage. This can be easily understood if one considers the
addition of the two 4-bit words: 1 1 1 12 + 0 0 0 12, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Addition of two 4-bit numbers illustrating the generation of the

carry-out bit
In this case, the addition of (1+1 = 102) in the least significant stage causes a carry bit
to be generated. This carry bit will consequently generate another carry bit in the next
stage, and so on, until the final carry-out bit appears at the output. This requires the
signal to travel (ripple) through all the stages of the adder as illustrated in Figure 4
below. As a result, the final Sum and Carry bits will be valid after a considerable
delay. The carry-out bit of the first stage will be valid after 4 gate delays (2 associated
with the XOR gate and 1 each associated with the AND and OR gates). From the
schematic of Figure 4, one finds that the next carry-out (C2) will be valid after an
additional 2 gate delays (associated with the AND and OR gates) for a total of 6 gate
delays. In general the carry-out of a N-bit adder will be valid after 2N+2 gate delays.
The Sum bit will be valid an additional 2 gate delays after the carry-in signal. Thus
the sum of the most significant bit SN-1 will be valid after 2(N-1) + 2 +2 = 2N +2 gate
delays. This delay may be in addition to any delays associated with interconnections.
It should be mentioned that in case one implements the circuit in a FPGA, the delays
may be different from the above expression depending on how the logic has been
placed in the look up tables and how it has been divided among different CLBs.
Figure 4: Ripple-carry adder, illustrating the delay of the carry bit.
The disadvantage of the ripple-carry adder is that it can get very slow when one needs
to add many bits. For instance, for a 32-bit adder, the delay would be about 66 ns if
one assumes a gate delay of 1 ns. That would imply that the maximum frequency one
can operate this adder would be only 15 MHz! For fast applications, a better design is
required. The carry-look-ahead adder solves this problem by calculating the carry
signals in advance, based on the input signals. It is based on the fact that a carry signal
will be generated in two cases: (1) when both bits Ai and Bi are 1, or (2) when one of
the two bits is 1 and the carry-in (carry of the previous stage) is 1. Thus, one can
write,
COUT = Ci+1 = Ai.Bi + (Ai ⊕ Bi).Ci. (1)
The "⊕" stands for exclusive OR or XOR. One can write this expression also, as
Ci+1 = Gi + Pi.Ci (2)
in which
Gi = Ai.Bi (3)
Pi = (Ai ⊕ Bi) (4)

are called the Generate and Propagate term, respectively.

Lets assume that the delay through an AND gate is one gate delay and through an
XOR gate is two gate delays. Notice that the Propagate and Generate terms only
depend on the input bits and thus will be valid after two and one gate delay,
respectively. If one uses the above expression to calculate the carry signals, one does
not need to wait for the carry to ripple through all the previous stages to find its proper
value. Let’s apply this to a 4-bit adder to make it clear.

C1 = G0 + P0.C0 (5)
C2 = G1 + P1.C1 = G1 + P1.G0 + P1.P0.C0 (6)
C3 = G2 + P2.G1 + P2.P1.G0 + P2.P1.P0.C0 (7)
C4 = G3 + P3.G2 + P3.P2.G1 + P3P2.P1.G0 + P3P2.P1.P0.C0 (8)
Notice that the carry-out bit, Ci+1, of the last stage will be available after four delays
(two gate delays to calculate the Propagate signal and two delays as a result of the
AND and OR gate). The Sum signal can be calculated as follows,
Si = Ai ⊕ Bi ⊕ Ci = Pi⊕ Ci. (9)
The Sum bit will thus be available after two additional gate delays (due to the XOR
gate) or a total of six gate delays after the input signals Ai and Bi have been applied.
The advantage is that these delays will be the same independent of the number of bits
one needs to add, in contrast to the ripple counter.

The carry-lookahead adder can be broken up in two modules: (1) the Partial Full
Adder, PFA, which generates Si, Pi and Gi as defined by equations 3, 4 and 9 above;
and (2) the Carry Look-ahead Logic, which generates the carry-out bits according to
equations 5 to 8. The 4-bit adder can then be built by using 4 PFAs and the Carry
Look-ahead logic block as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Block diagram of a 4-bit CLA.
The disadvantage of the carry-lookahead adder is that the carry logic is getting quite
complicated for more than 4 bits. For that reason, carry-look-ahead adders are usually
implemented as 4-bit modules and are used in a hierarchical structure to realize adders
that have multiples of 4 bits. Figure 6 shows the block diagram for a 16-bit CLA
adder. The circuit makes use of the same CLA Logic block as the one used in the 4-bit
adder. Notice that each 4-bit adder provides a group Propagate and Generate Signal,
which is used by the CLA Logic block. The group Propagate PG of a 4-bit adder will
have the following expressions,

PG = P3.P2.P1.P0 ; (10)

GG = G3 + P3G2 + P3.P2.G1. + P3.P2.P1.G0 (11)

The group Propagate PG and Generate GG will be available after 3 and 4 gate delays,
respectively (one or two additional delays than the Pi and Gi signals, respectively).
Figure 6: Block diagram of a 16-bit CLA Adder
Pre-lab assignment:

1. Describe briefly which factors determine the maximum frequency of a digital

circuit.
2. What is a critical path in a digital circuit?
3. Read the tutorial on "Timing Simulation".
4. Assuming that one delay in a AND and OR gate is 1 gate delay and in an
XOR gate 2 gate delays, determine:

a. What is the worst-case delay of the Carry-out of the one-bit Full Adder
circuit of Lab 1
b. Consider the 4-bit adder you designed in the previous lab. Under what
conditions of input signals does the worst case delay occur for the carry-
out signal? What is the worst case delay for the carry-out (of the last
stage)?
c. What is the worst case delay of signal S2 of a 4-bit ripply carry adder?
d. What is the worst case delay of signal C2 of a 4-bit ripply carry adder?
e. Assume you add two 16-bit words up using a ripple-carry adder.
Considering worst case conditions, after how long a delay will the sum
(S) be valid?
f. What is the delay of the Sum bits S0 and S3 of the 4-bit carry-lookahead
adder in figure 5 above?
g. What is the delay of the Sum signals S3 and S15 of the 16-bit CLA in
figure 6 above?
5. Submit your answers online using Blackboard.

In-lab assignment:
A. Parts and Equipment:

1. PC
2. Xilinx Foundation Tools F2.1i

B. Experiments:

• You will implement a 16-bit carry-lookahead adder. You will do this by

creating a Partial Full Adder (PFA) macro and a Carry-lookahead Logic macro
as shown in Figures 5 and 6.

o Open a new project in your folder (c:\users\your_name\) and call it

MY16CLA.
o Open the schematic editor.
o Create a macro of the PFA using VHDL. Call the macro MYPFA.
When the PFA has been synthesized, do a functional simulation to verify
that the circuit works.

NOTE: You can do a functional simulation without having to connect

input and output terminals to the macro input. Do the following:

 Go to the simulator by clicking on the SIM icon on the top

toolbar.
 In the Waveform viewer, click on the Add Signals icon (or go to
SIGNALS -> ADD SIGNALS). In the middle panel of the
Component Selection window, called Chip Selection, you will see
the name of the macro, MYPFA. Double click on it. In the right
panel, Scan Hierarchy, all the input and output pins will be
displayed. Select these pins by double clicking. When done, click
the Close button.
 Open the stimulator window and define the A and B bits using the
Binary counter.
 Do a functional simulation and verify the operation.

o Create a macro for the Carry- Look-Ahead Logic block. Call this
MYCLALOG. Use VHDL to create this macro. You should also
generate the Groups Generate and Propagate signals, PG and GG,
respectively. You do not need to create the carry C4. Do a simulation, as
explained above.
o Now you can create a 4-bit CLA adder macro. In the schematic editor go
to the TOOLS -> SYMBOL WIZARD menu and create the symbol for a
Schematic macro, called MY4CLA. Once the symbol has been created,
draw the schematic for the 4-bit adder using the above defined modules
of PFA and MYCLALOG. The adder should have as input A[3:0],
B[3:0], and CIN. The outputs are S[3:0], PG, and GG. Be careful when
connecting the carry signals. Since this schematic will be used as a
macro, you do not need to add input/output buffers and pads. For single
signals use a terminal; and for the buses (ex. A, B and S), define the bus
as "input" or "output" bus (or select End Bus if the terminals have been
o When finished, synthesize the macro and simulate the 4-bit adder. Verify
its operation and make a screen caption of the functional simulation
waveforms (only one page).
o You are now ready to create the top level schematic of the 16-bit carry-
lookahead adder. Use the block diagram of Figure 6.
o The schematic of the 16-bit adder is the top level schematic. All the
input pins (A[15:0], B[15:0], CIN, SOUT[15:0], and COUT) need to be
connected to pads and buffers. Cout is the last carry of the adder,
corresponding to C16 and can be generated from the groups Propagate
and Generate signals.
o In order to keep the schematic and its interconnections managable, use
buses as much as possible. It may be helpful to use a 16-bit wide bus for
input signals A and B. This bus can be split up into segments of 4 bits
that each feeds into the 4-bit inputs of each of the 4-bit CLA macros.
This can be done by first drawing a 16-bit wide bus (e.g. AIN[15:0]).
Then connect the 4-bit wide input bus (e.g. A[3:0]) of the first 4-bit
CLA to the 16-bit wide A bus; next connect the input of the 2nd 4-bit
CLA to the same A bus, etc. until all 16 inputs have been connected.
Now you need to specify how the bus signals are connected. This can
be done by giving the bus segment the proper name by clicking on the
bus. This will open the Edit Bus window. Keep the name but change the
bus width. For instance, to specify a 4-bit wide bus segment that
connects to the input of the first 4-bit adder, give it the name AIN and as
width [3:0]. It is important that the name of the bus segment is the same
as the name of the 16-bit bus. Do the same for the other bus segments
(e.g. AIN[7:4], etc.). For more information about buses in the Schematic
Entry window, select HELP -> SCHEMATIC EDITOR HELP
CONTENTS. In the help window select INDEX and type "buses" or
"bus connections".
o When done, do a functional simulation and verify that the circuit works
properly. Instead of defining each input signal A0, A1 ... A15, B0,
B1, ... B15 separately, it is more convenient to use the Formulas to
define the input signals of the input buses. See section on Formulas in
the Logic Simulator Tutorial. When the simulation give the right result,
take a screen catpure of the waveforms (again only one page).

• When the circuit works properly, you need to implement it so that you can do a
timing simulation later on.
o Make sure you added pads and buffers for each input and output. If you
don't add pads, the mapping software will remove all the logic between
input and output "connectors" and your circuit will have no logic or little
logic left!
o Before implementing the design, go to the Program Manager and select
the IMPLEMENTATION -> IMPLEMENT DESIGN menu (or
->OPTIONS menu). In the Implement Design window click on the
Option button. When the Options window opens, click on the Edit
Options button for the Simulations (Foundation EDIF). In the Simulation
Options window, click on the General Tab and De-select the option:
Correlate Simulation Data to Input Design. This will prevent that the
timing simulation will give undefined signals (see also undefined signals
in the timing simulation tutorial).
o For the implementation, see previous lab or check the tutorial on Design
Implementation. Use a device speed of 4.
o Check the reports and write the results in your lab notebook:
 Check the Map Report for the device utilization and the
equivalent gate count. Check if logic has been removed during the
mapping step.
 Check the Post Layout Timing Report. Find the maximum
combinational path delay and net delay.Between which input pin
and output pin does the maximum delay occur? What is the
maximum frequency at which the input signals can applied
without causing erroneous operation of the 16 bit adder?
• Timing simulation (Verification): In the Project Manager click on the
Verification (Timing Simulation) icon. This will open the timing simulator. Do
a worst-case simulation of the CLA and determine the delay of the Sum bits
and the Carry out bit COUT. In case you have problems with the timing
simulation and some of the signals are undefined (gray waveform), see the
notes below. You do not need to go through all the possible input combinations
because you have verified that the circuit works properly by doing a functional
simulation above.
o Apply input signals A[15:0] and B[15:0] which give a worst case
scenario for the delays of the sum and carry-out signals? Measure the
delays between the time the input signal is applied and the sum and
carry-out signal changes (use the measurement option in the simulator).
Write these numbers down in your lab notebook. Do they correspond to
the ones reported in the Post Layout Timing report?
o When doing the timing simulation, be careful that the period of the
stimuli (i.e. the signals applied to the input) is larger than the longest
delay of the circuit. If your input signal is changing before the output
signals appear (due to the delay), you will get useless and unpredictible
results. You can change the period of the binary counter output (Bc:) by
going to the OPTIONS -> PREFERENCES -> SIMULATIONS; adjust
the Clock Period of B0 to a value larger than the maximum delay (e.g.
50 ns). The input signal should not change until all the output signals
have settled to the proper value.
o Besides the delays of the Sum and Carry signal determine also the delay
of the input and output buffers.
o Take a screen capture of the simulation data, including the measurement
data for the delays of the Sum, Carry-out and buffer delays (max 2
screens).

Notes:

o In case some of the signals show as an undefined signal (gray in the

waveform viewer window or blue X on the schematic) make sure that
you De-select the option: Correlate Simulation Data to Input
Design in the Implementation Options (Simulations) as explained above
or in the timing simulation tutorial.
o Use the Measurement tool to determine the delay: go to WAVEFORM
-> MEASURMENT -> MEASUREMENT ON. This will allow you to
display the delays.

Lab Report including

1. Course title, Lab no, Lab section, your name and date.
2. Section on the lab experiments:
A. Brief description of the lab including the goals
B. Copy of the VHDL source code of the macros PFA, MYCLALOG.
C. Screen capture of the schematic of the 4 bit and 16-bit CLA adders
D. Screen catpure of the funtional simulation of the 4-bit CLA adder (label
printouts)
E. Screen catpure of the timing simulation with measurements16-bit carry-
F. Summary of the Map (device utilization) and Timing Reports (delays)
G. Discussion of the measured delays using the Timing simulator.
H. Maximum frequency at which the 16 bit CLA adder can be used.

References:

1. R. Katz, "Contemporary Logic Design", Chapter 3, sections 3.3.1 and 3.3.2;

Chapter 5, section 5.2
2. D. Van den Bout, "The Practical Xilinx Designer Lab Book", Prentice Hall,
Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1998.
3. J. Wakerly, "Digital Design," 3rd edition, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River,
NJ, 2000.
4. M. M. Mano and C. R. Kime, "Logic and Computer Design Fundamentals",
2nd Ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001.

Go to the Xilinx Foundation Tutorial

Copyright 1999, Jan Van der Spiegel; October 15, 1998; Updated by J. Van der
Spiegel, October 10, 2001.